When in Rome…

Rome is a place I have always wanted to visit! Italian food, to me, has to be the best on the entire planet – am I right?! Although it’s not just the food itself that I love, It’s also the whole culture associated with it; the relationship Italians have with food and what it means to them. After visiting Venice this time last year and getting a taste for it I just knew Rome was where we had to go for our mini-moon. It was romantic, full of history and culture and most of all carried an abundance of cheese and carbs (which I had been starving myself of for the wedding.)

So let me set the scene, it’s the morning after the wedding. I’m feeling pretty fresh (still on a high from the day before.) We get all our stuff together and head home to open our gifts – mainly because people had got us euros for our trip, not because we’re Monica Gellar in that episode of Friends. (Was that at all convincing?!) We then packed the car back up with our holiday gear and started our journey…. first stop Gatwick.

It is in the car that I start to feel peaky and begin to relive the amount of shots I had done the previous night. Safe to say that kept me quiet!

As soon as we got to the airport and checked in we headed to find food. I was SO hungry and it was not helping my hangover in the slightest. After much (painful) deliberation we settled on Wondertree. Jon ordered a burger and a beer. I ordered mac and cheese balls with fries and an apple cider cocktail – sorted me right out!

The flight went by pretty quickly – I devoured more food on the plane (a tomato, basil and mozerella foccatcia), read some of my new book (After You) and had an unsuccessful nap.

We arrived in Rome pretty late (around 8.30pm) and IT WAS HOT!!!! Faced with a sea of cabs, we kind of just stared at them until someone approached us. He gave us a quote (60 Euros) and we hopped in. (I will point out now that we could have done this trip a lot cheaper by using the trains etc BUT it was our mini-moon so we indulged – when in Rome!)

Our first views of Rome were covered by a blanket of darkness, but this didn’t stop me eagerly staring out of the window. Our driver was quiet at first but once he started talking he was actually a really nice guy! He pointed out different landmarks and gave us some real local knowledge. He was also happy to hear of our recent matrimony (Italians love marriage!) and proceeded to inform us that the older you get, the better it gets. You understand it more, you love harder! So I guess we have that to look forward to. We also got to see some prostitutes scouting for work so yeah… take from that what you will.

We arrived at our hotel (Relais de l’Opera) around 9.30ish?! I didn’t actually check the time so this is a total guess. We got a little tour from the guy on reception (who had kindly stayed late to accommodate us) and took some time to sit down and figure out a plan of action.

The hotel, we found out, was within walking distance of all the major sights – winning! Our room was reasonably sized and SO COMFY. We also had a complimentary mini fridge which was restocked every day (unfortunately not with alcohol.)

Given what had proceeded us in the last 24 or even 48 hours we were understandably shattered so going out out was off the cards. Instead we took a little wander to a local corner shop, bought 3 bottles of wine and a tube of pringles – that was us sorted for the evening.

Jon had kindly been gifted a lonely planet guide to Rome from the people he works with and we used this ALOT during our trip. I actually don’t know what we would have done without it and I highly recommend getting one if you travel. We also got a map from the hotel which was easier to use than the fold out one in the book.

Day 1

We set a reasonably early alarm to start off our first day. I’d been advised by so many people that if you do a city break, it’s best to get up early, beating the crowds to all the sights. This didn’t go quite to plan but at least we tried.

As breakfast was included at the hotel, we decided to eat there. I wasn’t overly impressed to be honest, it was a basic continental breakfast – meats, cheese, bread, cereal, cakes and croissants. The bacon was good though! And the guy working in the breakfast room was super friendly, striking up a football based convo with Jon – much to his delight.

So first sight seeing stop – The Colosseum.

After walking in the wrong direction for a while and finally correcting ourselves, we made it to the Colosseum. If you walk down the right roads you literally cannot miss it. It was huge and so impressive. You could almost feel the history associated with it (if you blocked out the sounds of people trying to sell you selfie sticks – as if I travel without one, come on!) Jon is also a massive fan of the Spartacus/Gladiator era so he was in his element.

Sooooooo we didn’t beat the crowds and the queues were massive. There was no way around it, we admitted defeat and joined the back of the line. After about 5 minutes a guy approached us saying that it would take at least 2 hours to even get into the colosseum if we carried on queuing, but if we went with him although it would cost a little extra, we could join a tour that left soon and would take no more than 10 minutes to get in. This obviously sounded too good to be true and usually I would be super sceptical BUT we had enough money so took our chances.

Luckily it worked! We paid around 60 euros and joined a tour that pretty much got us straight in. We had a guide who told us interesting facts about the Colosseum itself as well as the history at that time. I’m glad we did it this way, you really got a sense of what it may have been like and learned things you wouldn’t have known had you gone in on your own.

We decided that if we go back (fingers crossed!) we will definitely book in advance to get a tour of the dungeons.

The tickets we got from these people also included a guided tour of the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum, however, we decided to do this alone. Obviously doing it this way meant that we didn’t really know what we were looking at but it was still enjoyable. I wasn’t all that sold on the Palantine Hill (although I did enjoy the chickens we stumbled upon.) On the other hand, I really liked the Roman Forum, it had a lot more structure and was therefore more appealing to the eye.

Before coming to Rome I had heard of a cat sanctuary and thought that this was in the Roman Forum – we were disappointed to find that it was not!

The weather was growing hotter and there’s only so much you can look at ruins so we took this as our cue to leave (walking about a mile out of our way to try and find the exit.)

It was definitely time for lunch, so as recommended in the lonely planet guide, we set off in search of Circus – a roof top bar on top of the FourtySeven hotel near the river Tiber. The guide noted their speciality dish was the spaghetti in garlic and oil, so that is what we ordered, as well as a starter of parma ham and mozerella (the biggest ball I have ever seen) and a bottle of gavi d gavi – perfection!

I thoroughly enjoyed the food and devoured it before I could even snap a picture. It was so nice to take some time to relax, soak up the views and just enjoy each others company. The bar was small and relatively quiet which made it a great pit stop.

After lunch we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and drink more wine – when in Rome!

That night we decided to find the Trevi Fountain. We were a lot more successful in our directions this time and found it without much hindrance. I feel like this may have been helped by the fact that I’d got some gelato for the journey – I mean how can anything go wrong when your filling your face with such deliciousness!? (oreo and caramel in case you were wondering.)

The fountain was absolutely packed!!!!! But the atmosphere was buzzing! I was informed that it had recently been closed for refurbishments so maybe this had something to do with it – or more likely, it’s always this way. Catching a quick glimpse of the fountain in all it’s glory we agreed to find food, arranging to come back a bit later on when it was dark.

We found a small authentic Italian restaurant in a cobbled side street called “La Locanda Del TemPio” – seated outside we ordered the same starter as we’d had earlier in the day. I then went for the lasagna with fries (to which the waiter asked if I was from England) and Jon ordered a steak.

I promise I am not lying when I say this was probably the best meal I have ever eaten in my whole life! I nearly cried into my food it was so delicious. All my hopes and dreams for Rome had been pilled into one huge plate of lasagne all washed down with a glass of something fizzy. I also have to note here that the lasagne was almost exactly the same as the ones served at Tarentino’s in Brentwood, which happens to be my favourite restaurant and says a lot about their authenticity.

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The waiter had been right in his assumption that I was English and probably laughed to himself that he had sold me some fries I definitely would not be needing – I’m not a girl who likes to leave food but my god was I full.

Back to the Fountain we went, with happy tummies in tow. We fought our way to the front and did the obligatory coin toss (complete with boomerang evidence of course).

The Trevi fountain was probably one of my favourite sights, that and the coloseum. It was just so beautiful and grand and anyone who follows me on insta will know I love a bit of water, it just photographs so well and had it been quieter I would have had a field day on the photo front. If we ever go back to Rome I want to get up really early one day and revisit the fountain when it’ll hopefully be quieter.

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Back to the hotel for more wine and a blissfull sleep. (Seriously I hadn’t slept for about a week before the wedding so this coupled with the mega comfy beds, the wine and the carbs – I slept like a baby!)

Day 2

So this day we decided to go find the cats! Yes we left our little moggy at home, travelled to Italy and decided to search for more furry friends, but come on! Cats … in Roman ruins! What’s not to love?!

Torre Argentina cat sanctuary, as it’s officially named, was pretty easy to find. However, we had some time to kill before it actually opened and decided to walk around for a bit. This saw us stumble upon a cute market (gutted I didn’t buy any pasta to bring home) and take a pit stop at a small bar. As we had just had breakfast at the hotel, Jon decided to get some fruit…………..I got a pizza! – When in Rome 🙂
Another impressive and delicious meal from the Italians! So simple yet so bloody good!
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Then it was opening time so back to the sanctuary we went. Ok… I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was a little depressing! The lovely lady from the sanctuary showed us around and told us how their main aim is to neuter as many of the strays as possible to stop the problem. It looks as though it’s pretty successful but they obviously rely heavily on funding and volunteers (Jon announced that if we lived in Rome he would work there lol.) We were then shown to the less abled cats who weren’t allowed outside due to the different conditions they all possessed. My favourite was Ray Charles – a black blind cat. At least they have a sense of humour eh! You can adopt any of the cats from afar or actually have them shipped to your home!
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Our next known stop was a hotel bar the lonely planet guide suggested but obviously we would fit in some sights along the way. The first of which being the pantheon. The contrast of this building was truly phenomenal – the outside is weathered and old leaving much to the imagination and nothing very grand except the sheer size of it. The inside however was a totally different story. Beautiful artwork, architecture and statues. There is a hole in the top of the building which lets in the light – the lonely planet guide suggested getting there around midday as this was when it was most prominent and luckily enough this is when we arrived.
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A short walk from here was the Spanish steps. I wasn’t greatly impressed by these to be honest – I much preffered the Altare della Patria which was close to our hotel and also had a lot of steps. (Although our cab driver had told us the Romans hate this building due to it’s annoying placement.)
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We then walked down a road paved with designer outlets until we reached our destination – the Stravinskij Bar, described in the lonely planet guide as a “celebrity hotel”. Unfortunately we spotted no celebs but the courtyard we sat in was so picturesque and we had the most fun here! Flashing the cash as 22 euros a cocktail I tired a Stravinskij spritz and a couple of rum based cocktails which were SO GOOD! Really tangy and fresh. Jon opted for whiskey based cocktails and we were showered with all the nibbles! Glazed almonds, crisps and olives. After a couple of cocktails we thought it was probably a good idea to eat some real food and so we ordered lunch. I went for a tomato and basil pasta, Jon opted for a vegetarian lasagne. Both delicious! (of course I tried his too.)
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Feeling a little tispy we headed back to the hotel for a power nap (and more wine – rude not to really.)
Our evening plan was to find the rooftop bar overlooking the coloseum. I really wanted to see that baby lit up at night! As we weren’t really in the mood for posh nosh we agreed to grab some food on the way there and just have some drinks at the bar. We found a little restaurant on the main road and sat outside. I had spag bowl and Jon had pizza (which I ate about a quarter of too – are you impressed yet?) We also had a bottle of wine to share (it wasn’t as good as the gavi but it still went down smooth.)
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Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the restaurant but it had a great atmosphere and the guys working there were really chatty.
The coloseum is just as impressive at night if not more so. I loved how it was illuminated in the darkness!
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We found Aroma – the rooftop place we had been looking for and were ushered into an elevator to reach the bar. The view out to the coloseum was breathtaking BUT that was just for people in the restaurant LOL good one guys! However, this didn’t matter in the end as we were shown to the bar on the other side which was totally empty apart from the two of us. It was the perfect end to the most amazing day! We had more wine (gavi woo) and cocktails, were given some random little treats to try and spend the night in the open evening air laughing and talking. I’m literally pining for this right now just thinking about it.
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We walked home via the coloseum, manoeuvred some dodgy looking alleys and finally found our way back to the hotel.
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And that was it! Our cab arrived the next morning and off we went back to reality.
If you are considering a trip to Rome then do it!!! Even if you aren’t considering it, just go. I couldn’t recommend it more and I cannot wait to go back one day. It was the most beautiful city and I will keep the memories we made there close to my heart forever!
Ciao Bella’s x
Peace and Love xoxo
P.S, If none of that persuaded you…. Jon caught some wicked Pokémon there too!

What happens in Weymouth….

If you are a regular reader of Life By Laura you may have seen a previous post on my tip to Dorset (if not click here). Basically a school friend of mine made the big move this year and Jenna and I had so much fun visiting last time that we decided to go again!

The only difference was she had moved (again!) from Bere Regis to Blandford Forum. After a quick discussion deciding whether our “new home” gift/card was sufficient for both moves (we agreed that it was). We promptly booked our tickets.

Our previous journey down to Dorset had been delightful, full of snacks, canned cocktails and most importantly space! This time we were not so lucky. After spending too long enjoying ourselves in the Natural Kitchen at Waterloo we swiftly realised that we had 10 minutes to board our train. We made a quick dash to M&S to get supplies but to our dismay (and by that I mean utter torture) we had to abandon our wine and crisps because the queue was HUGE. We ran through the ticket barriers and along side the train to try and find a seat. LOL good one girls, you booked the busiest train and you now have to stand up for the 2 hour journey – hope your Natural Kitchen was worth it. (It totally was by the way.)

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Don’t feel too bad for us (although I’m sure you don’t anyway) because we made some fab tipsy train friends. Charlie – I hope you won your boat race around the Isle of Wight and to the ladies who had spent the day at Buckingham palace – I hope you got to finish your wine and your prawns weren’t ruined.

FINALLY we arrived at Poole, greeted by Holly (and a bottle of wine). We drove to Holly’s new place. Which happened to be the 2 bedroom flat of dreams, an amazing registered building of high ceilings and arched walls. We drank wine, ate snacks and tried failed to keep quiet so as not to disturb her new house mate. Probably the biggest feat of the whole evening though, was the three of us trying to put a camp bed together – the amount of innuendo’s filling the room would have made you blush (or maybe not, I mean I don’t know how your mind works.)

We had pre-planned our activities for Saturday, an early morning drive to the New Forest for bike rides in the wilderness followed by a boozy night in Bournemouth. All of which was thrown out of the window when we were offered a caravan in Weymouth!!!! (I know what you’re thinking, not quite as hip, cool or instagramable as option A but stay with me here.)

We started the day in a cute little tea room (literally in the same building as Holly’s flat) and I devoured the most delicious bacon and cheese bagel I have ever set eyes on. Then it was Weymouth time! The excitement in that car would have made you think we were off to Disney.

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Arriving at the Caravan we were unable to check in for another couple of hours BUT that was not a problem due to fact that Holly had pre-booked us a private spa to fill the time! (Suddenly Weymouth is sounding more glam, right?!) For 2 hours we were escorted to this little haven, including our own private Jacuzzi (which was huge), a sauna, steam room and aromatherapy shower where essential oils flowed through the water – dreamy! The best part was, we were able to bring a bottle of prosecco with us AND it was only £15 each!

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After 2 hours in a spa any ideas of going out had been thoroughly squashed so we set about creating the best girls night in EVER (which obviously meant stocking the caravan with as much booze and food as possible!)

So here’s how our night evolved – 7 bottles of prosecco, a bottle of sangria and a jug of daiquiri consumed. A meat, cheese and bread platter, 2 pizzas, popcorn, chocolate, crisps and hummus also consumed. 2 full films and half of 2 other films watched. Tunes listened to. Dancing, singing, laughing and an anecdote that shall remain between friends (what happens in Weymouth…). And we did it and all in the comfort of our little carva-van (Cleverly renamed by Jenna!)

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We ended our trip with a cute walk along Weymouth beach and a mad dash back to Poole station resulting in us missing our pre-booked train home – oops!

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As I get older, going out gets less and less appealing and this weekend just confirmed that for me! I don’t doubt that we would have had a lovely time out on the town in Bournemouth BUT I can guarantee that we had the best weekend in Weymouth with our comfy’s on surrounded by all we could possibly need. (We definitely left with less money guilt… although way more food guilt.)

If you take anything from this post take away the idea of a night in, or a weekend in. Take a trip or stay at home but do not get out of your pjs, make sure you are fully stocked and get your best people around you – trust me you wont regret it.

(this post should 100% have been sponsored by prosecco – maybe I should take out shares?!)

Peace and Love xoxo

Essex does Dorset…

Ok so if you haven’t ever visited Dorset the first thing you need to do before carrying on with this post is go purchase yourself a cheeky ticket – I promise, you won’t regret it!

Got it?? …. Ok let’s start.

A good school friend of mine recently made the move to Bere Regis in Dorset and invited Jenna and I to come visit her new surroundings. With pay day (and the wedding) looming, none of us had much cash so we vowed to spend the weekend doing cute outdoorsy things that won’t cost much.

 

Arriving at around 11.30 pm the plan was to head back to Holly’s and go straight to sleep. Obviously this was never going to happen! Not having seen each other for over 6 months there was SO much to catch up on and this just could not wait! You know that excitement you get when seeing an old friend for the first time in forever and you just bounce stories off each other, you gasp you laugh you congratulate, that was us. After we had exhausted our anecdotes it was 2am and we all crawled into bed ready for an early start.

8am wake up call, it was hike time! Now if you go for a hike in Essex you are basically going for a long walk cause the terrain is much like my singing … Flat!

 
Dorset on the other hand, is anything but flat. We arrived at Lulworth Cove dressed in an array of Holly’s gym gear and faced the “mountain” ahead of us with pure excitement. That is, until we actually started climbing and realised how unfit we all are!! Making excuses like “oh one sec I need to tie my shoe”, “Oh hold on let me put my hair up”. Then by the end we were just like, “WAIT I CANT BREATHE!” – any pretence was well and truly gone!

 
  

But my goodness was it worth it! We reached the peak of the hill, set out a blanket and went about eating the gorgeous breakfast that Holly had prepared for us… Home made pancakes with syrup and strawberries, bagels and cream cheese, fizzy peach water… It was beyond dreamy! Who doesn’t want to eat their breakfast in the fresh country air surrounded by beautiful hills and a tranquil sea that is literally to die for!?

 
  

After breakfast, a bit of outside yoga and some group pics (which included me setting a timer and running up and down a hill), we headed down the other side to check out Durdledoor. This beautiful nature carved rock is just stunning, on a secluded little beach known for its jurassic associations. I could just imagine myself here with a great book, writing in the sun or with a group of friends. This is 100% a place I need to come back to!

 

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Then to Lulworth Cove. An equally beautiful cliff lined beach. We skipped stones (or attempted to) took some more pics (this time seeing me set a timer and fail to jump on a giant rock). The day was absolutely perfect, we just wandered around surrounded by all of this natural beauty reminiscing about old times and planning our dream futures.

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We ended this little day trip with a Dorset fudge ice cream (well I did) – and what better way!

 

 We headed back to Holly’s beautiful little house. Sitting in the garden drinking wine and listening to old school naughties songs; singing, laughing and remembering old times! We even got fish and chips from the cutest little van that comes to this country town every Saturday to deliver the locals their weekend treat – so delicious!

 

 The three of us could totally relax in each others company, and that is the great thing about life long friends. You don’t have to put on a front and you don’t have to try to be something your not. They know everything about you, your good and your bad, that embarrassing thing you did years ago or that amazing achievement you had recently. You don’t have to explain your back story, they just know! No judgement, you are 100% comfortable and that, is priceless!

 

 In this fast paced society we live in, where social media fools us into believing we are in constant interaction with each other, it is easy to loose touch with these friends. You all go your separate ways and live your separate lives but it is so important to make time to reconnect!

In one day we seemed to have fit in so much but it was just perfect! We got a real taste of our friends new life in this amazing place. We saw her beautifully decorated little house with the cutest garden in the world, we spent time with the family and met her lovely new man. Having grown up through our awkward teenage years together it is honestly the best feeling to see your friend in such a great place, both geographically and personally.

Only having time for a quick visit we spent our last day at sandbanks. We got to see where Holly works, right next to an amazing marina and a cute sandy beach! What a life eh?! And in an attempt to recreate Joe Jonas’ cake by the water, we had scones by the sea!

 
  

 The rain came and we took this as our cue to leave. We spent some time wandering around the local shopping centre in Poole before heading to get our train. Saying our goodbyes until next time and already considering our return.

Sometimes you visit a place and get that feeling like yes, this is a bit of me! Bere Regis and Dorset in general is definitely one of those places. A quiet rural town, beautiful little houses and breathtaking surroundings!

 
  
  
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Peace and Love xoxo

Life update…

So I haven’t blogged for like 2 weeks now… oops!

When I first got back into blogging it engulfed me, my whole being became about my blog and that’s fine if it’s actually your full time job but for me this is a hobby. To ensure I don’t go stir crazy and max out I have taken the pressure off and will now blog as and when I fancy rather than stressing that I haven’t got a post up. Quality over quantity my dears! 🙂 It’s not healthy to be tied down by the internet and social media so sometimes a little break is just what you need to feel at peace again.

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ANYWAY, enough of that let’s get on to what I’ve been up to these past couple of weeks. Cause I’m sure you’re all dying to know. LOLZ.

Firstly, I am back trying to be healthy AGAIN! Well this week I am, last week was a bit of a disaster on that front and saw me putting on 4lbs AWKS. But I’m feeling totally motivated now…. I promise.

I actually really enjoy the gym. I mean it’s hard getting myself there obviously, but when I am I love it! Also as my ankle is now getting stronger I’m able to try more adventurous classes. I am currently a member at Virgin Active and while I can’t get over the price, it is in fact the only gym I have ever stuck with! Their classes are AMAZING, all the instructors are great and the gyms themselves are always clean and lovely!

 

Not only have I been back on that gym life, I’ve also made a conscious effort to eat better. I will try get some blog posts done of the healthy meals I’ve been making because OH MY LORD are they delicious. Who knew healthy eating could be so yummy and filling?

 

  

The weekend before last was a pretty exciting time for me…….wait for it……… I got my first pedicure! I know, I know, not quite the revelation to most of you but Jesus Christ on a biscuit it was so good! You get to sit on one of those comfy chairs with your feet in a dreamy bubbly potion, then someone rubs and massages you till your soft as a baby’s bum. What’s not to love? And why have I not been doing this all my life?

 

(Here’s the manicure I also had cause it’s prettier than my feet)

So after I spent Saturday morning primping my feet I decided to batter them on Sunday with a 3 mile walk! My friend Lottie and I took her cute pup to Marks Hall (my wedding venue) and took a leisurely stroll round the surrounding area – it was a beautiful day for it and we actually managed to join on the end of a sponsored dog walk. I have never seen so many dogs in all my life…. it was great! We ended the day with the cutest pub lunch at the Woolpack Inn, Coggeshall. Really reasonable price, absolutely delicious and SO QUICK!

 

  

Last week was probably the most exciting though because I went on my first proper business trip! That’s right I am a fully fledged grown up who is trusted to meet people. Me and a colleague headed to Hamburg in Germany, the purpose of the trip was to introduce me to the Members I have been working with for the last year and a half and I have to say it went really well! Despite my initial nerves I came away feeling super positive and motivated. Aside from this, Hamburg is a beautiful city and I can’t wait to go back.

 

  
  
  

And then it was Easter! I didn’t make many plans for the weekend, what with the wedding coming up I am what you may call, absolutely broke! But I still managed to fit in some fun. Lunch and wedding chats with my newly engaged pal on Friday (we were supposed to go gym but I bailed oops.) Saturday I did make it to the gym! Then made up for it by laying in bed all day watching the Kardashians. Sunday was a big day… Family lunch at my sisters and for the first time in 9 years, JON CAME WITH ME! I was so happy for him to finally be integrated with the Butchers, all together, all at the same time… it’s a scary concept for anyone! This day also saw me consuming my body weight in sausage rolls and cake (I thought calories didn’t count at Easter, the 4lb I put on tells me otherwise.) Monday was another chilled day – gym in the morning, food shopping and a roast lamb dinner for me and my babes. Perfect end to a lovely little break.

 

And lastly, before we are pretty much up to date was my hospital appointment on Wednesday to which I accidentally turned up half hour late (for the second time in a row). Luckily I was seen and my appointment ended with my surgeon saying “I hope I never see you again” LOL how nice of him! But this is a good thing ’cause it basically means I’m healed wooooo. Well, I’m nearly there but there’s nothing more they can do for me, it’s down to my body now. I’ve been told to get back to normal life and just listen to me ‘ole ankle to make sure she’s feeling A-OKAY.

Good news all round and a successful couple of weeks I’d say! But now the pressure is on…….. I managed to sign myself up to 2 exams in May and will become a hermit, going into severe revision mode as I have THE FEAR! Please send help.

 

Hope you little chicka’s had a fab March – Let’s take April by the horns!

Peace and Love xoxo

Amsterdam || A weekend away 

I love to travel, to try new places, to get away and escape reality for a little while (who doesn’t?) So a regular hobby of mine is looking up cheap flights and hotels… all of which lead me to Amsterdam!

My main issue usually is finding someone to jet off with! With my other half being too money sensible for spontaneous trips I turned to my pals and luckily my wifey was game! (also a great excuse to catch up and spend some time together seeing as she lives in Manchester.) Flights/Hotel booked and we eagerly awaited our trip! We flew with easyjet for around £56 each and the hotel was found on booking.com costing £90 each plus tax. (BARGAIN!) – see here for hotel details.

We flew from Southend airport on the Friday and it was an absolute dream, I love this airport SO MUCH. It’s ridiculously quick and easy!

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Arriving in Amsterdam around 17.30 we set about finding our hotel. The free Amsterdam guide from booking.com told us that our nearest station was Amsterdam Rai so we bought a return ticket here. However, when we arrived we quickly realised we were nowhere near our hotel and would in fact have to get a further metro to our actual stop! Trying to figure out the ticket machine was slightly challenging but with some persistence and ALOT of nervous laughter we managed to get an hour ticket for around 2 euros each.

When we got to our actual stop we learned that we were not far from our hotel, using google maps as our aid we stood around baffled for a good 10 mins alone trying to figure out what direction we were going BUT eventually we nailed it!

It was dark as we arrived so we couldn’t take full advantage of our surroundings but it still looked so cute! The bridges, the fairy lights, the water. Tip number 1 for Amsterdam though – watch out for the bikes!

We reached our hotel, with all our limbs intact, and hurried to reception for check in. First impressions of the hotel were YAAAAAS! The décor was great, exposed brick, cosy fire, plush furniture, pictures of half naked people on the walls, a magazine rack. Very modern and chic! Also the guy at reception was SO CUTE and we instantly felt at ease. He was really helpful showing us where everything was on a map that he gave to us, even pointing out the best places to eat. If this wasn’t enough we were also being serenaded by the sounds of fergalicious!

All checked in we made our way to the room, this was just as impressive if not more so. I exclaimed in delight over the exposed brick theme running through the hotel (“I’ve been dreaming of inside brick for ages” I think were my exact words and I even hugged the wall lol awks.) The room consisted of, the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in, a flat screen tv, plush chair, desk area, bed side tables, clothes hanger, safe, sink, toilet (with glass front door – If you aren’t that close things could get awkward.) and a shower which happened to just kind of be round a corner with no door. Oh and of course towels and free toiletries BOOM.

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After we had got over the delight of this beautiful room we started making plans for our trip. With a short time span it’s always best to have a plan so you don’t waste time aimlessly wandering – this is great if you’re there for a while but you don’t want to miss out on exciting things due to bad planning!

First stop on the Friday eve was a sweet little authentic Italian restaurant. Obviously family run, we were attended to with a friendly smile and a bit of food related banter – this is what we like! We were given some home made garlic bread to start which was delicious! And ordered a litre of red wine, cause obv! We’re on holiday! And we finished this all off with a spag bowl each that was absolutely perfect! (and of course smothered in parmesan cheese on my part.)

Once we were sufficiently full we moved on. Walking further down the street we passed many busy bars until we hit a square. This square was full of places for us to try and we were a little overwhelmed! Where do we start? Are they all for drinking or are some just for smoking? What do we do? SOMEONE GUIDE US. In the end we opted to start with an Irish pub… stick with what you know! We had one drink in here wrapped in blankets in the chilly Feb air and it was SO CUTE! We then decided we were ready for something a little more decadent and headed to smokeys. The music was great! A real mix of stuff from old and classic to new and fresh, it was quickly evident that this was not a place for drinking as beer and water seemed to be the only beverage on the menu, not being a beer fan I opted for a water. However, what seemed to be a lot busier was the weed counter (which still seems like a strange concept to me.) Not wanting to go too crazy I opted for a muffin – playing it safe, considering the stories I’d heard from other people who had been before. I scoffed the dry chocolate muffin and waited………. and waited……… and waited, nope nothing! So i opted for something pre rolled and barely managed any of it because smoking is actually gross and my poor feeble throat couldn’t take it! We left smokeys around 1am when the barman walked around turning all the music off.

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On the way home we stopped at another small bar, one for the road! Be rude not to really.

Things we learned about Amsterdam that Friday: Doors there are really heavy! All the toilets smell amazing (seriously what are they using?) Some bars are not for drinking. People watching here is the best.

With a free fruit and tea from the hotel lobby we made our way to bed with a crazy early alarm set for the morning to ensure we got the most of our trip.

Up bright an early with a fuzzy red wine head but ready to explore! We had breakfast at the hotel which was delicious (albeit a little pricey). Pancakes, bacon, croissants and syrup YESYESYES! Just what we needed to set us up for the day.

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We found a small tour shop and purchased some tickets… first stop, the body worlds museum. I had read about this place in Scarlett Londons blog and was so curious that I just had to see it for myself. The museum is filled with the actual bodies of people who had donated themselves, these are made plastic to stop them decomposing which enables you to get a really good look at how we are made. I found the whole thing to be fascinating! The exhibition is actually based around happiness, why we strive for it, what makes us happy, what stops us from being happy etc and focusses on some real key issues as well as teaching you about the body and how it works. I would highly recommend this to anyone! It’s always good to know about your body. We came out of there with a definite sense of needing to exercise more and eat better.

Amsterdam in general is a beautiful city with so much to see. We passed the flower markets, crossed over the canals and looked on lovingly at the many many cheese shops!

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Dam square, although surrounded by beautiful architecture, didn’t really do anything for me though? I much preferred where we were staying and would personally recommend staying a little further out. Everywhere is in walking distance so there’s no worries on that front.

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Next stop was Blue, a café/restaurant our hotel receptionist had told us about. It was situated on the top floor of a shopping mall with panoramic views of the city from above. It was a little grey but still beautiful! I had a home made lemonade which was SO refreshing! and a bowl of chips to get me through till dinner.

Whilst at our pit stop we decided that next on the agenda would be the red light district and in particular the red light secrets museum.

You could definitely tell when you were approaching the red light district as everything got a little bit naughty. Sex shops started popping up and then oh hi lady in a window how’s you? It’s a little unnerving but also a lot more normal than I was expecting! From what I’d seen on tv I assumed that the whole thing would be more of a spectacle and that all the doors would be together. I was mistaken!

The red light secrets museum was €8 entry and started off with a short film. This played on a loop so once you had caught up with yourself you were free to roam the rest of the exhibition. I actually found this place to be really interesting if not a little depressing. The museum was filled with facts and figures regarding prostitution in Amsterdam as well as mock up rooms, including a torture chamber. You also had the chance to sit in a window yourself (both real and virtual) and let me tell you it is not fun!

My favourite part of the museum I think was the confession wall. Guests are encouraged to write down their sexual confessions which are then stuck to a big wall for all to see. They’re also published into a book and a calendar (which I totally would have bought if they weren’t so over priced.)

After leaving the museum we went on a mad hunt for waffles. I’d seen so many people walking around with them and they looked delcious! Considering they are bit of a Dam delecasy we couldn’t not! After what felt like forever we finially found a place that matched our criteria and we were not dissapointed. I opted for white chocolate and strawberries. (Which, if I do say so myself, was a fantastic choice … I can literally taste it now just thinking about it mmmmmmm)

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With happy waffle filled tummies we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and rest our weary legs.

We then ventured back out in search of the Heineken experience. Wandering the dark streets we passed a few buildings that looked as though they might be it, all of which looked closed! Having paid already we grew slightly nervous. But EVENTUALLY we found the actual building, all lit up in green and surrounded by people – yep it was definitely still open.

Not being a massive fan of beer this wasn’t my favourite excursion but it was still fun! There was a small simulator in which you became beer and were “brewed”… when you’re not expecting this it becomes strangely, confusingly hilarious! There was also beer tasting (obv) and ponies!!

After this final sight seeing stop we hunted for a place to dine on our last night. We came across a fancy looking place and with money still to spend decided this was it. With fake log burning fires and fish tanks we instantly relaxed. The food was so delicious but the best part of the whole place was the handles to the toilets … they were hands!!! Just genius and I couldn’t resist taking some snaps.

After dinner we hit up a cocktail bar, millie had a pina colada which was served in an actual coconut! You even get given a spoon to eat the innards afterwards – I so wished I liked coconut cause this looked seriously cool. I, on the other hand, opted for a rum and ginger number (seeing as the place was called ginger I thought it would be a good choice …. and it was!) We were given free “crisps” by what I assume was the manager (although these were way to spicy for me… they kind of looked like mini prawn crackers).

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Leaving the cocktail bar we decided to make one final stop back at Smokey’s (mainly because the music was great and the people watching was even better!)

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 One last night in our super comfy beds and a 6am alarm set for the journey home!

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I cannot fault Amsterdam, I absolutely loved the city and am definitely planning to go back. I’d love to visit in the summer and ride bikes around the park ❤

Have you been to any of the places I mentioned? Let me know what you thought 🙂

Peace and Love xoxo

An extended Friday faves – 12th January 

Ok so I missed the last two Friday faves (soz guys!) life takes over sometimes and it’s got me thinking that maybe I should do it monthly instead – Let me know what you think in the comments 🙂

So as a kind of  apology this weeks Friday faves are a slightly extended version!

New Look Sunglasses

I am loving these bad boys and yesterday I actually got a chance to wear them as Mr Sun had his hat well and truly on! I originally saw these in the Chelmsford New Look, decided not to buy them then couldn’t stop thinking about them (isn’t that always the way!) So on my lunch break I headed down Fenchurch street and snapped them up! Totally glad I did.

 

Cosmetic Warrior face mask – Lush

I’ve had this mask ever since I went to the Lush event in Chelmsford and I absolutely love it. Being garlic based I was a little sceptical but it really does work wonders, my face feels fresh and soft after use. Also as garlic is anti bacterial it helps fight those pesky breakouts! I try to use it at least once a week.

 

Mac and Cheese

Bit of a strange one! I’m sure most of you know by now that I eat ALOT of pasta and cheese but lately I seem to be on some sort of mac and cheese hype – I just cant stop eating it!! It’s so bloody delicious and like a hug from the inside, perfect on these cold wintery days. Comfort food at it’s finest my friends!

My mum sent me a picture of a mac and cheese she made the other day and I was almost angry! How dare she make that when I’m not there! (She also told me of her new secret ingredient… smashed up crisps on top for that extra crunch! shhh don’t tell anyone.)

 

New Hair

FINALLY got my roots done and had it all toned… I feel like a whole new woman! The colour is exactly what I wanted and I feel all sassy and kind of like a hip old lady haha Thank you Brooke for your mega skills.

 

Elsa Dress

So my friend is having a fancy dress party for her birthday on the 27th and with new hair in tow what better costume to buy than ELSA FROM FROZEN!! I got this little gem from Amazon and OMG I am so excited to transform into the ice queen. (The dress is mega see through and gets glitter everywhere but I’m Elsa for Christ sake! Who gives a flying fish!)

 

Hannah Gale jumper

I’m sure you’ve all seen my blogger jumper from the original HG collection which is a comfy slice of jumper heaven! So when Hannah announced there would be new designs I jumped at the chance to buy myself a cheeky early birthday present.

This cats carbs and cuddles one literally describes my life. I wear it all the time!! And it’s just as comfy as the other one ❤

Keep an eye out for my Birthday wish list as this will definitely feature another HG treat.

 

Barry M nail varnish

Ok so I’ve wanted to buy this wintery nail colour for a while now and decided to treat myself just before Amsterdam cause a girl gotta have those nails of fleek for insta pics. This colour makes me feel super sophisticated and grown up – weird how a nail varnish can change your perspective (and down right lie to your brain.) This speedy quick dry is a God send for an impatient little bean like myself who is prone to smudging.

Time with my wifey

As my pal Millie lives in Manchester I don’t get to see her as much as I’d like to, which sucks! When she comes home she obviously has other commitments and people to see so going away for the weekend together was so great! It means we got to have a proper catch up and spend some well deserved girl time strolling the streets of Amsterdam. Although it was short lived I really appreciated being able to spend the weekend with this babe!

 

Visiting new places

And on the same note, the ability to hop on a 45 minute flight and spend a couple of days exploring a whole new city is like pure bliss to me! I love seeing new places, learning new things and observing different cultures. More to come on Amsterdam in a separate post but (spoiler alert) I highly recommend!

 

New filing cabinet

I have been looking to get a filing cabinet for SO LONG now. It may sounds like a strange thing to desire, especially as I don’t have an office at home but being an organisational freak and having no space to separate you paperwork into headed sections can lead to multiple meltdowns (trust me). MUM TO THE RESCUE and this little beauty has saved my soul! Not only do I no longer have paper work flying everywhere, I now have more space to put pretty things… win win!

 

Finding lost things

When going through the mountain of paper work (I had to figure out what was making it into the new filing system and what was “girl bye” into the bin) I stumbled across my lost wedding plans!!! I had misplaced these little buggers months ago, they seemed to have just vanished off the face of the earth and I did not have the strength to re do them. (Until recently when I re did everything and then oh look here’s the old ones!)

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Bridesmaid dress stress is over!

On the whole wedding theme I am happy to announce that all three bridesmaids now have dresses, after a worrying time where I thought one may have to come naked or you know by chopped out the show! THANKFULLY all will be kitted out in a bloody bargain babe from none other than ASOS! seriously brides to be – ASOS is your friend.

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Have a great weekend and happy anti-valentines ❤

Peace and love xoxo

When in ……Venice.

I have always been a massive fan of Italian food! And by this I mean, I divulge in inhumane amounts of pasta pretty much every day (smothered in cheese of course!!! It’s a miracle I haven’t got high cholesterol yet).

It has been a dream of mine for many years to visit Italy purely for this reason… filling my face with sweet, sweet Italian cuisine.

A couple of months ago I started reading Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. I loved the film and consequently fell in love with the book! During her story Elizabeth spends a year living in Rome with nothing but fond words for the city and of course, its food. Spurred on by this, I began looking for cheap flights to Italy. This desire was of course fulfilled by Easyjet, known for their budget friendly tickets. Venice in September… perfect! I found a friend to tag along and promptly booked.

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It was then that I reached the part in the book in which Elizabeth herself visited this mystical watery city….. And she hated it!

“Her cheer, her optimism – they in no way match this stinky, slow, sinking, mysterious, silent, weird city. Venice seems like a wonderful city in which to die a slow and alcoholic death, or lose a loved one, or to lose the murder weapon with which the loved on was lost in the first place. Seeing Venice, I’m grateful that I chose to live in Rome instead. I don’t think I would have gotten off antidepressants quite so quick here.”

Safe to say I was more than a little disheartened!!!!

Aside from this, being a professional bargain hunter, (I have awarded myself this title – I think it’s well deserved) I just assumed I would be able to do Venice on a budget. A few people then commented on how expensive it was and panic struck!! Who just buys flights to a City cause they love pasta and read about it in a book without really considering what this entailed?!?!?! …. Me that’s who!!

Luckily I managed to maintain my professional bargain hunter title and do everything I wanted in Venice for an extremely reasonable price:

Flights: £110 return for two people from London Southend to Venice Marco Polo. (September 16th 2015)

Accomondation: Airbnb £177, one bedroom apartment. (We also had to pay city tax when we arrived and EUR 35 for arriving after midnight.)

Spending money: I exchanged £250 which got me just over EUR 300. I came home with £100 worth of euro’s!

The Journey.

This was the first time I had travelled from Southend Airport and I absolutely loved it!!!! The airport is so small, it resembles a sports centre. I was half expecting to turn a corner and arrive at the public swimming pool. This meant that everything happened so quickly and efficiently which was a massive pro (especially on the way home but I will get to that later – I know the suspense must be killing you.)

If only everything had stayed quite so blissful and efficient, but no, of course not….. Oh Laura’s travelling? Cool let’s spice things up a bit, keep her on her toes!

So firstly, a lady was taken ill on the plane that had just landed, the plane that we were now supposed to be boarding. We waited for what seemed like a life time till this woman could be taken off the aircraft and wheeled embarrassingly passed a whole line of restless travellers.

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We finally boarded, got to the runway…..sat at the runway…. continued to sit at the runway. The Pilot came over the sound system and explained that due to bad storms ahead air traffic control would not yet release us and we would have to wait till they gave the all clear.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, the pilot then came back to us explaining that we had sat and waited for so long; we had consumed too much fuel and would have to head back to the terminal in order to fill the aeroplane up enough to make the journey! (You can’t make this stuff up!)

Finally in the air and after a lot of nerve racking turbulence we arrived at our destination an hour late. We hurried through the airport and found the counter which would sell us our rolling Venice tickets (which would enable us to travel on the vaporetto (water bus) as much as we wanted for the duration of our trip) and headed to the bus.

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Accommodation.

After a 20 min bus journey and a 10 min water bus we arrived at our stop. We had booked to stay in an apartment using Airbnb and were met by our hosts’ son. Our apartment was a 2 min walk from the vaporetto stop which was super handy.

We signed all the necessary paperwork, paid our tax/late arrival fee, then Luca produced a map and proceeded to explain how we could get to all the sights we wanted to see. He also gave us some suggestions regarding places to eat etc. (These tips, and map, became integral to our trip and we were extremely grateful for the local knowledge.)

He then showed us to our apartment which was absolutely adorable! Perfect for our little trip and filled with quaint matching furniture and shuttered windows.

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https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/6384481

(N.B. whilst Luca was writing down the code to get into the building he made a mistake and let out a “Mamma Mia!” – this filled me with joy and I thought, yep… we’re in Italy now. It’s the little things in life.)

Day 1

Leaving the apartment around 10am we promptly realised that Venice was not a morning city. Most places were still closed and there didn’t seem to be many people around. This did not deter us however, and actually worked in our favour as we were able to get our bearings without being crowded and also enabled us to mingle with the locals.

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I was in awe of everything! The city, although old and battered, was so mystical and beautiful to me.

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Our first stop was the Jewish Ghetto where we found a place to sit and eat. It was a gorgeous day so we picked a table outside that over looked the river (although most places in Venice overlook a river.) I ordered spaghetti in tomato and basil sauce – being on holiday I felt this to be an acceptable breakfast – and my friend ordered a pizza. We were also accompanied through most of our sitting by a friendly dog.

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When the food arrived and I took my first bite, I could have cried!

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DELICIOUS!!!! This is exactly why I was in Venice!

After almost having a food induced break down, we made our way to the vaporetto stop. We had decided that this day would be dedicated to visiting a few of the Islands around Venice.

Our first stop was San Michele, also known as “the cemetery island”. I would like to point out here that this was not my choice!!! We arrived at our destination and within seconds of stepping foot onto this island of the deceased we were met by a frail old Venetian lady in floods of tears. I looked at my travel buddy in horror and a “why the hell have you bought me here!!” Luckily this was the only griever we met. And the place was actually quite beautiful. What I noticed from the island is that Italians clearly place high value on family, have a lot of respect for those who have passed and many are great religious believers.

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I was surprised to see most of the graves were accompanied by a photograph and all of the flowers were fresh and well attended, even for those that had passed many years previous!

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I also noticed…. there were a lot of tiny lizards on the island! Cute and small, but extremely quick and difficult to get a photo of.

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Originally when my friend had told me that she wanted to visit the cemetery island I had assumed that she was referring to Poveglia; which is known as one of the most haunted islands in the world. In 1793 there were several cases of the plague on two ships calling at Poveglia and consequently the island was transformed into a temporary quarantine for the ill. Then in 1922 existing buildings were converted into an asylum for the mentally unhinged. The island was therefore subject to several hundred years of cruel death and later abandoned.

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To be completely honest, side stepping the fact that I am a GIANT wimp, I’m a little disappointed we didn’t go here! Although it has since been sold and is no longer open to the public.

Next stop…. Murano! This was a cute little place known for its glass blowing; we actually managed to witness this in action whilst passing a glass workshop. There was also a rather impressive lighthouse on the island; we took some time to rest here, taking in the views across the water (and of course getting in a couple of selfies!)

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Our final stop for the day was Burano and boy did we save the best till last! I am completely and utterly in love with this colourful little island!!! Every house was a different colour; shops were filled with Venetian lace, cafes and restaurants filled with delicious smells.

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We spent some time wandering around in awe of the colours, the tiny streets, the utter cuteness of what felt like a completely imaginary place! Then we decided to refuel – After looking round all the cafes and restaurants available, in true female style, we went back to the first one we saw. We ordered some meats, cheese and Prosecco, all of which tantalised the taste buds and the whole scene would have been perfect…. until I knocked my glass and threw Prosecco all over the table, my friend, myself and an angry looking waiter – OOPS!

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For dessert, there’s only one choice… a customary gelato! – How is this so much better than ice cream but practically the same thing?

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The islands, although amazing, were filled with a lot more tourists than where we were staying and it was the first time we had heard anyone actively speaking English (or American English). Personally I much preferred listening to the locals… there’s something quite meditative about not being able to understand the people around you. It gives you time to focus on your surroundings rather than being nosey to other people conversations – or is that just me? I just can’t concentrate on beautiful scenery if the people next to me are relaying their woes to each other; I’m a sucker for a good piece of gossip.

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So after all that excitement we decided to head back to the apartment, getting some fresh fruit from the market stalls on the way, in order to freshen up before finding a place for dinner. Luca had told us of a place nearby called Al Timon and this is where we ended up.

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Al Timon was a small bar on the river’s edge, and it was full of locals! The selling point of the establishment was two boats on the river directly outside which you could use as seating. We were told that this was the only place in the area which did such a thing, which seems ridiculous to me? You’re whole City is surrounded by water, take advantage! Tourists love this stuff. It’s not every day you get to eat your dinner on a boat.

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So we went inside ordered two aperol spritz and a selection of cicchetti (which is basically bread with different toppings and super tasty!) We perched ourselves crossed legged on the boats deck, with a collection of strangers, to sit under the stars and consume our Italian treats. Safe to say I did not enjoy the spritz and my next order was a Prosecco…. sometimes you have to stick to what you know! But the scene itself couldn’t have been more perfect.

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On the way back to our apartment we stopped at a café. My friend opted for a hot chocolate but being in holiday mode I settled for another Prosecco. These were accompanied by some free crisps (a massive tick from me!) and some light music, which was highly welcomed as we had noticed a severe lack of music within Venice.

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We also managed to fit one last helping of gelato in before we called it a night! It would be rude not to really.

Day 2

Our last day in Venice had arrived! We packed our bags and “checked out” of our apartment. We contacted our host who told us where to leave the keys and we were able to leave our bags in the building to collect later that day. (The building was code locked so we were able to get in without needing a key or disturbing anyone – extremely handy for this sort of thing.)

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Being in a new city we thought it mandatory to visit the main tourist area, so we hailed a vaporetto and headed towards Rialto. We reached the Rialto Bridge; supposedly an iconic artefact in Venice… but in reality we were faced with the vague resemblance of a bridge which was covered in scaffolding and sporting a large advertisement poster for some fashion brand. Not exactly what we were expecting… so much so that we didn’t believe that was it!

After manoeuvring our way through the busy side streets filled with a proliferation of highstreet, Venetian and tourist stores we arrived at Piazzle San Marco (or St Mark’s Square).

It felt as though we had wandered into a gigantic fire drill where every building had evacuated its people and they were subsequently standing in lines/milling around. In other words… it was CRAZY busy! Not only this but the sun was beating down in the square and I was yet to consume any food … safe to say, I was getting HANGRY!

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So we swiftly left the madness of the square (where people feed pigeons for fun!?!?!?!?! – You can get your photo taken with them by a professional photographer… I have no words!)

Wandering back through the lanes we found a small restaurant. I ordered a lasagne (one of my favourite dishes) and I was not disappointed! Although not aesthetically pleasing … it tasted DIVINE. This was finished, of course, with a gelato from the store opposite.

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We then braved the square once more, purely to get to the other side. Once we reached the water’s edge, things were slightly calmer, and with a happy tummy I was able to relax again. The sun bouncing off the sea whilst the gondola’s bobbed simultaneously was just the kind of sight I had been hoping for.

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Our next stop was La Bienalle, a yearly exhibition that attracts art lovers from all over the world and our most cultural part of the trip. There were two venues for the exhibition, first of which was in Arsenale.

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Personally I loved it! The place was full of modern art which leaves much to be interpreted, but the sheer range of work and the messages the portrayed (those which could be understood) were truly impressive. I got lost in the atmosphere and took to practically running around like a child gawping at everything I passed.

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Unfortunately, with another venue to see and time not being on our side, we had to move on without getting to see everything. It became apparent that this was a trip in itself. So we grabbed some food (Pizza for me) and headed to Giardini.

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The walk to the next venue was absolutely stunning. As we walked a path towards the water’s edge lined with trees of autumnal colours we noted the adorable Italian couples, all leaning on each other in the afternoon warmth, many asleep and some conversing. A large statue filled the entrance to this majestic pathway and upon reaching the concrete master piece we noticed that it was surrounded by little turtles! Not at all what we had expected but a welcome surprise none the less.

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Giardini was set out slightly different to Arsenale in that there were separate buildings, each dedicated to a particular country. Every country was represented by an artist and their work was exhibited within the selected building. I had been researching La Bienalle on Instagram and there was a particular installation that I was interested in visiting. This was in the Japan Pavilian and consisted of two wooden boats, surrounded by thousands of keys all attached to red string. The exhibit was truly impressive and I couldn’t help but wonder how long this would have taken. Interestingly, there was a time lapse video playing which portrayed its creation.

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Britain was represented by an artist named Sarah Lucas and was named I SCREAM DADDIO. When speaking of her art she was quoted to have said, “Humour is about negotiating the contradictions thrown up by convention. To a certain extent humour and seriousness are interchangeable. Otherwise it wouldn’t be funny. Or devastating.” – Well she was definitely a woman of humour, which we discovered when walking into her room full of body casts with cigarettes hanging from various orifices. I promptly photographed the statues and sent the evidence to the girls back home to show how cultural I was being. I mean in this day and age who doesn’t wander round rooms of half bodies with cigarettes hanging out of their vaginas? Come on people, get some culture in your life.

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It was soon after this that time caught up with us and we were forced to make our way back. We collected our bags from the apartment (used the free Wi-Fi to check nothing important had gone down on Facebook) took a swift stop at the gift shop (to purchase a Venetian mask for my mum) then settled down for one last food intake before heading to the airport.

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Spaghetti and meatballs complimented by a carafe of Prosecco. Meatballs were the last food I needed to tick off of my list before leaving Italy and I was SO glad that I hadn’t gone home without trying these heavenly gems.

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So that was it! Venice was done… another city of the world witnessed through the eyes of a Butcher (although the first to have been blogged… Venice should feel special.)

Our journey back home was executed with ease. We had initially been worried considering that our plane was due to land only 20 mins before our last train home was due to depart. Luckily we landed early and with Southend being such an efficient airport we were out in a timely manner and actually managed to catch the prior train.

All in all I am pleased with my spontaneous trip decision as it allowed me to experience another wonderful city (which ultimately may not be there much longer considering that it’s sinking.) It was a break filled with colour, culture and exquisite cuisine. I would highly recommend Venice and hope that I get the chance to return sometime; there are still edges that remain undiscovered by myself including the island of Lido which I would be interested to explore.

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So if you’re looking for a holiday that includes copious amounts of free carbs, the possibility of drowning round every corner, and a beauty that cannot be described (mainly because I’m tired of writing now) Venice is the place for you.

Thankfully I will be heading back to Italy in August next year, this time visiting Rome with (what will then be) my new husband. We are travelling the day after the wedding for a minimoon…this is either a genius or a terrible idea! I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

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Laura x